The great thing about Judaism is that you can “steal” amazing ideas as long as you credit the person you stole from. This entire post will be thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld and Rabbi Avi Rabin, the two Rabbis I spend the most time with, learn from, and just really like as human beings. I wish I had met these gentlemen when I was younger, as my journey into Judaism may have been more advanced then it is. But we come to things when we are supposed to, and it is all up to Hashem.
Just the realization of that is profound for me. As of 5 1/2 years ago, I did not have a “relationship” with Hashem other than me being Jewish, knowing He existed and believing. There was no connection per se, no real understanding of what Hashem or even Judaism really was. That does not mean I was not participating. I had a Bar Mitzvah, I went to Shul every so often, and I did have other amazing Rabbis in my life who I learned a lot from. But it only truly clicked for me in Israel in 2014. Five years ago next month, actually! That trip was profound on so many levels, and it really brought me to Hashem.
I Screamed At Hashem
As I walked the dog yesterday morning I lost it. So much was going on in my brain and I felt like I was out of control in every aspect of life: romance, career, life choices, life in general. It was too much. I was confused. I wanted to know why there was no solid ground for me to grab hold of. Why nothing at the moment was working or easy. It was test after test after test, it seemed. I broke down. Yes, on my walk and in public. Luckily no one was around. But I looked towards the sky and I asked “Why?” No, I actually screamed “WHY???!!!”
But here is the amazing part. In the midst of so much pain and confusion, so much hurt and anger, I was in communication and in a relationship with G-d. I did not curse Him, I did not yell at Him. I asked for guidance and help. I begged for it. And yes, I PRAYED for it. Instead of walking away, giving up, throwing in the towel, I was talking to G-d.Fear And Regret — Fuel Or Lead
The conversation continues. I still feel lost, but I do fully and firmly believe there is a plan, His plan. I need to see what I see, feel what I feel, learn, and keep moving forward.
The month of Elul is our preparation for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. It already feels different for me because of the wisdom Avi and Shlomo have shared. Both talked about fear and anxiety. Both talked about regret. Avi taught the powerful and simple lesson to take into the new year: “Think good and be good.”
And Shlomo talked about using regret to lead us into confession to lead us into resolution. He said that regret can either be fuel or lead. Fuel to change us, propel us, move us forward, or lead to sink us, weight us down, hold us back. This year I choose fuel. This year I choose to return to the song of my soul and sing. From Unbroken To Broken And Back To Unbroken — The Sounds Of The Shofar
Maybe it’s because I am a music guy, but two things that Shlomo said hit my soul. The first is that everything can be a Shofar. Every joy, every sorrow, every event, every thing we see has the ability to wake us up out of this sleep walking walking slumber. Everything can be a Shofar if we see it, really see it, take it in, ponder it and use it as a lesson, listen to it. The Shofar is a call to arms and action. Heed the call. Say Hineni, here I am. But go. Don’t stand still. Don’t let regret and fear and anxiety weigh you down. Break the chains of bondage, hear the Shofar and follow its notes. We are not just leaving Egypt, escaping from slavery. We are returning to ourselves as free people. We are returning to our whole souls.
The other lesson he shared was the obligation we have to hear, at minimum, nine blasts of the Shofar. Those blasts start unbroken, then they become broken blasts, and then finish unbroken. How profound is Judaism? How amazing is the connection to everything. Rosh Hashanah and You Kippur are about Teshuvah, returning to ourselves. We come into the world whole. We have all we need. And yet life breaks us, or we allow life to break us. We allow our brains to make bad choices and deal with things in the wrong way. But then, like those final blasts, we are whole, we are unified, we return to the unbroken sound of our very souls.
Everything can be a Shofar. While we get to hear it literally all this month and on those amazing Holy days, it is around us all the time. If you are like me and are broken, listen to the sounds, listen to the calls and return to your unbroken self that already exists within all of us.
And for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKQrBURDtQE